Eleven incidents of piracy and robbery of vessels were reported off West Africa in January 2018 of which nine were recorded off the Nigerian coast and internal waterways. Four incidents, one off Cotonou, Benin, and three on the Nigerian internal waterways, resulted in the kidnapping of 29 crew members. Three attempted robberies on Product Tankers were reported off Lagos while vessels were engaged in Ship to Ship (STS) cargo operations. Two attacks failed off Brass, Nigeria. An attempted robbery took place at Conakry Port, Guinea.
Attacks off Brass
24 January 2018 - The Product Tanker, Ebunola was attacked by suspected pirates, approximately 45nm south of Brass, Nigeria. The master issued a distress call on VHF. The pirates abandoned the attack when the Nigerian Navy responded.8
24 January 2018 - A Singapore flagged, Bulk Carrier was attacked in the same area where the Ebunola was attacked. The attackers approaching on speedboats fired on the vessel. The speedboats turned away as the Bulk Carrier increased speed.9
Attacks on Internal Waterways
Four attacks on Nigerian waterways were reported in January 2018 of which three resulted in the kidnapping of seven passengers.
5 January 2018 - A passenger boat was attacked on the Brass-Nember Waterways, Nigeria. An accountant with the Nigerian Content Development Monitoring Board, NCDMB, Chief Numudogio Micah was kidnapped. N30 million (US$ 80 thousand) were demanded in ransom. He was released on 13 January 2018.10
10 January 2018 - A passenger boat with three people onboard was attacked in the Foropa-Azuzuama waterways, Southern Ijaw, Nigeria. The skipper was shot in the shoulder while one of the passengers, a soldier, was kidnapped. A female passenger was left behind.11
17 January 2018 - Five oil workers employed by Sahara Energy were kidnapped while travelling on a boat on the border between Edo and Delta States, Nigeria. They were enroute to a offshore location at the time.12
23 January 2018 - Armed men launched an attack from two speed boats on a marine police gunboat attached to the Ogbia Division of the Nigeria Police. The attack occurred at the jetty of the marine base in Ogbia, Nigeria. Two police men were killed and an Assistant Superintendent of Police was injured during the attack. The attackers also stole a 200hp engine and two rifles.13
MT Barrett Hijacking
On 10 January 2018 at around midnight the partly laden Product Tanker, Barrett was hijacked from the Cotonou Anchorage, Benin. The vessel have a crew of 22. The On 12 January 2018 the pirates made contact with the owners. The ship and crew were released on 16 January 2017.14 The fact that the pirates made contact with the owners would suggest that this is not so much a hijacking for the product, but more a kidnap for ransom. It is not clear if the product was stolen. Similar attacks are likely. It is also likely that the ship was specifically targeted. The pirates would have been vulnerable if the operation became protracted and their geographical position became know, therefore the vessel was probably chosen for the owners ability to pay a ransom in the shortest possible time. The pirates would be most vulnerable in this scenario when they have to depart from the vessel after a ransom was received.
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